Published on 05/30/2011

Cranial Insertion and the Holy Grail

or, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life's Finale

Cranial Translation
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Note: This article is over two years old. Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes. Proceed with caution.

When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best...
And now, for something completely different.

Though there's also some of the same. As usual, we've brought you a collection of the best from the last bit, straight from the inbox for your enjoyment. From the inbox and a little from the @CranialTweet twitter feed. Oh, and our events. Some from our events, from , and from @CranialTweet. And that PM through MTGS, so we've got you content from PM, @CranialTweet, and .

There may be a distinct flavor to this week's article, though.


Q: Phyrexian Metamorph copies Spine of Ish Sah and dies – will I get the Metamorph back?

A: That'll work. The "leaves-the-battlefield" trigger has to look back in time to the last time the object was on the battlefield to determine whether it should trigger, and the last time your Spine-a-morph was on the battlefield, it had such a trigger.

Q: Phyrexian Metamorph copies Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and dies – will I get the Metamorph shuffled in?

A: No. Emrakul doesn't have a normal dying trigger, but rather a trigger that triggers on going to the graveyard from anywhere. The distinction is when we look at the object: in the former case, you look at the object right before it leaves the battlefield, so the Spine-a-morph triggers. But Emrakul triggers from the graveyard, so your Metamorph will be pining for the fjords rather than gleefully shuffling into your library.

Q: What happens to my Phyrexian Metamorph if I use it to copy an animated Mountain by Koth of the Hammer?

A: Then you'll get a huge tract of land. It won't be wobbling about, though – it'll be a plain Mountain, not a creature, since the effect from Koth's ability isn't copiable.

Q: When Phyrexian Metamorph copies Squadron Hawk, do I get to search for more Metamorphs or Hawks?

A: An object's name in its text box usually means "this object," but the word "named" in the ability makes it an exception. You'll always search for Squadron Hawks, even if you copy it with Sakashima the Impostor.

Keep in mind that the object's name is also a copiable value, so your Metamorph will be named "Squadron Hawk" after it copies it, anyway.

All right then, if he's resting, I'll wake him up!
Q: I have a creature equipped with Glint Hawk Idol due to Bludgeon Brawl and my opponent taps that creature in the beginning of combat step. Can I activate the Idol to attack?

A: You won't move from the beginning of combat step into the declare attackers step until both players agree they don't want to do anything else. If you want to put four million volts through your Idol so it can voom, then you don't not want to do anything else! And thus you can do that before declaring attackers.

Another fun thing that confuses many newer players: tapping an equipped creature does not tap the Equipment attached to it!

Q: Doesn't proliferate add a counter of each kind already on the cards you target?

A: Proliferate doesn't target at all, it just has you choose what to proliferate as you do the proliferating. I've heard some people saying "oh, well, you know what I mean, I just didn't want to rephrase" – but no, "target" is very specific in Magic, and you can't misuse it out of laziness.

Once you've chosen which objects to proliferate, you do what it says: give each exactly one additional counter of *a* kind that permanent or player already has. Not each kind, a kind, singular.

Q: If my opponent controls Suture Priest, can he make me lose 1 life when Rusted Relic enters the battlefield if I control three other artifacts? Is it the same answer if I control only two other artifacts?

A: Whether you control two or three other artifacts, Rusted Relic will enter the battlefield, see itself as the third (or fourth) artifact, and be a creature. After applying continuous effects, then you look for triggers, and Suture Priest flings a tennis ball through your head since a creature just entered the battlefield.

Q: I control a Blood Pet and am about to cast Scarscale Ritual. As I can pay all costs in any order, could I put the -1/-1 counter from the Ritual on the Pet, then sacrifice the Pet to pay the mana cost for the Ritual?

A: You can pay order in any cost, true, but you must activate mana abilities before costs can you pay! Saccing Blood Pet for first must be done mana, but then you can pay a counter or place the mana as you wish.

Q: If my opponent has Deceiver Exarch on the battlefield and casts Splinter Twin targeting it, can I cast Vines of Vastwood on the Exarch to counter the Aura? If so, does the Aura simply go to the graveyard?

A: With your Vines wrapped around it, your opponent's Aura can't target his own creature. (Remember, Vines doesn't say that the creature's controller's opponents can't target it, it says that your opponents can't target it!) Just like any other spell that's countered for not having a legal target, the Aura will be put into its owner's graveyard.

Q: I know I can't have a spell target Spellskite with Indomitable Archangel and two other artifacts out, but if one of those artifacts is Origin Spellbomb, can I sacrifice it and change the target before I get my Myr token so that the spell is countered?

A: That works – there will be a short intermission where you only control two artifacts, since you sacrifice Origin Spellbomb as a cost to activate the ability but don't get the replacement Myr token until that ability resolves. During this intermission, you can swivel the target to Spellskite and then have that spell countered once you have the Myr token to get Spellskite shroud again.

Q: If I control Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, Omen Machine will force my opponents to exile a card, and then if it isn't a land they can only look at it wistfully, right?

A: Well, looking at the card angrily is also an option. You must cast the spell exiled with Omen Machine during the resolution of its trigger, but Teferi says that you can't, so you just leave it in exile. How you choose to react to this harrowing turn of events is not defined by the game rules.

Q: How big will my Etched Monstrosity be if I get it and Melira, Sylvok Outcast with Tooth and Nail?

A: 3 7/16" by 2 7/16", the same as if you had gotten Etched Monstrosity without Melira and Tooth and Nail.

Although I suppose a more helpful answer is: 8.7cm by 6.2cm, the same as if you had gotten Etched Monstrosity without Melira and Tooth and Nail.

The even more helpful answer is also "the same as if you had gotten Etched Monstrosity without Melira and Tooth and Nail," since it will have five -1/-1 counters on it. Melira has to be on the battlefield before something else tries to enter in order to stop it from getting counters as it enters the battlefield.

Q: If I sacrifice a Marsh Flats, can I get an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth? Can I get a Volrath's Stronghold when I have Yawgmoth's Tomb out with that same Marsh Flats?

A: Urborg's effect only works while it's on the battlefield – it would be quite silly otherwise. It also only affects lands on the battlefield, since outside of the battlefield they are land cards rather than lands. Even though Volrath's Stronghold actually did burn down, fall over, and sink into a swamp, it's still a non-Swamp land card in your library. And so unfortunately your Marsh Flats are falling quite flat.

You can't expect to wield supreme
power just 'cause some watery tart
threw a sword at you.
Q: My little birdy is equipped with Sword of Feast and Famine and Sword of War and Peace and smacks my opponent who, for some reason, can't block it. Can I have the War deal damage to him before the Famine makes him discard?

A: You'll get both triggers at the same time, so you can choose which to resolve first. Resolve the RW Sword's trigger for damage and life first, and then have him discard and untap your lands (and then get a Wolf and have him mill ten cards, why not?).

And remember: the speed of an unladen Squadron Hawk is 20 turns.

Q: What do I name with Phyrexian Revoker to stop the Splinter Twin/Deceiver Exarch combo?

A: Since Splinter Twin says that the enchanted creature has the ability, that creature is the source of the ability, and that's what you must name to stop copies from being made.

Q: So, I control Humility and Life and Limb and Opalescence and Xenograft and Enchanted Evening and Squire and Naked Singularity and

A: No, the whole premise is silly and it's very badly written.

Q: If I Sudden Spoiling Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre and then wipe the board, does my opponent's graveyard get shuffled in?

A: Keen readers will notice that we've already answered this question in this article, but with different circumstances! So, rather than give you the answer right out, see if you can be the first one to post the related question and the answer to this one in the discussion thread. (This has been a fairly common request among readers, but not one we can really accommodate all the time, but this is just for one question...)

Q: Can Boseiju, Who Shelters All make flashed back spells uncounterable?

A: Flashback is just an alternate cost, and it's still paying a cost to cast a spell, so Boseiju will stop that spell from being countered.

Q: What happens to my Tumble Magnet when it's all out of charge counters?

A: Then it'll probably start dancing seductively as it reads the news report, but that's about it. Nothing says to sacrifice it, so you don't; in fact, there are no abilities at all on it that say that anything special happens once it runs out of counters. It'll just sit there until something like Vedalken Infuser gives it more counters, you sacrifice it to something like Artillerize, or the game ends.

Q: Can I tap an animated Celestial Colonnade to pay for Norn's Annex and attack with that same Colonnade?

A: Surprisingly enough, this works. You don't pay the cost and then attack – you declare your intent to attack with the creature, tap it, and then pay costs. If you don't have mana floating, which you most likely do not since it all went down the drain as the declare attackers step started, then you can activate mana abilities immediately before you pay costs, which is still after you tapped your attacking creatures.

Except the Colonnade has vigilance, so you didn't tap it, and now you can tap it to pay off Norn!

Q: My opponent is at 1 life. If I attack with two 1/1s, and he blocks one with a Wurmcoil Engine, will he lose as a result of combat, or will the lifelink creature keep him alive?

A: As damage is dealt, life is gained and lost at the same time as a result of that damage. So you'll have assigned 1 damage to the Wurm, 1 damage to your opponent, and 6 damage to your blocked 1/1. This results in 1 damage marked on the Wurm, 6 damage marked on your blocked creature, 1 life lost from your opponent, and 6 life gained by your opponent. Net result: your opponent is at 6 and you're down a creature.

Q: After Hindering my opponent's commander, I went to dig it out with Praetor's Grasp so I could cast it. Can I do that?

A: You can dig it out, but your opponent will get to put it in the command zone. If you exile a card from a hidden zone and are allowed to look at it, then you must look; if it's a commander, you must reveal it and ask its owner what he or she wants to do with it. If that player is daft (or Mindslavered), he or she will let you exile it, and then you can cast it.

Q: If Progenitus is my general and I have a Fist of Suns out, can I play the Progenitus for ? If I can do this will the Fist of Suns negate the additional mana spent for the next time Progenitus is cast from the command zone?

A: You can replace the cost with , that's not a problem. But you won't get the commander tax covered for free – you'll still need to pay for each time you've cast Progenitus.

It's only a matter of weeks until San Diego ComicCon, where your CI editor and 1/3 of the English writing team will be there! Exciting!

But in three weeks, Magic: The Gathering Commander comes out, with 51 new cards, approximately 50 of which will cause tons of questions, so I'll be back then to commandeer your commander queries.

As for now, there's not really a great deal of point in hanging on at your end, because I'm afraid there aren't any more jokes or anything.

Until next time, keep 'em laughing as you go.

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona

About the Author:
Eli Shiffrin is currently in Lowell, Massachusetts and discovering how dense the east coast MTG community is. Legend has it that the Comprehensive Rules are inscribed on the folds of his brain.


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